To Doug Schneider,
First off, let me say that I thoroughly enjoy reading your reviews. I’m comparing the respective speakers myself.
I’m having a hard time deciding, but I want to select a speaker that provides the most transparent and true-to-the-source [reproduction] without coloration.
The speaker that I consider my favorite has been the YG Acoustics Carmel 2. But, it is of course the most expensive. It’s also a two way, but hits very low.
Out of the Focal and KEF Reference line in your opinion, what is closest to that?
The Carmel 2 certainly is very expensive -- $24,300 per pair! Although I have not reviewed the Carmel 2, I’m confident that KEF’s Reference 1 will compete handily with it -- for $7999.99 per pair (without stands). Plus, insofar as neutrality goes, KEF designs their speakers to be exceptionally linear, like YG does. To see for yourself, just look at our measurements for the Reference 1, which I reviewed in December 2014, and the Blade Two, which I just reviewed and we published a few days ago. Very flat. If I were choosing between the Reference 1 and Carmel 2, there’s no question I’d go for the Reference 1. Of course, from there one could move up to the Reference 3 and 5 floorstanders, priced at $13,999.99 and $18,999.99 per pair, respectively. I haven’t reviewed either, but what I understand about these designs is that they’re every bit as neutral as the Reference 1, but can go deeper in the bass and play louder. That KEF can offer so much value has mostly to do with them being a pretty big company and benefiting from economies of scale, which most boutique manufacturers don’t have the luxury of.
Now for Focal: I loved the Sopra No2 speakers, which I reviewed in October of last year. The No2 Is priced at $13,999 per pair. Focal, like KEF, is a big player, so the No2 ends up also being a lot of speaker for the money. The thing with Focal’s speakers is that I’ve never found them to be quite as neutral as KEF’s designs, which our measurements of their various models show -- they usually have contoured responses, though they don’t stray so far from strict neutrality that they sound unnatural. In fact, the No2 sounds phenomenally good in my room, displaying wonderful transparency in the midrange and highs, and is right now my favorite speaker for under $20,000 per pair (above $20,000, I’d go for Vivid Audio’s Oval B1 Decade or KEF’s Blade Two). I haven’t heard the Sopra No1, which is a two-way, stand-mounted design that sells for $8999 per pair (with stands), but others have told me it’s fantastic as well. Definitely don’t leave the Sopras out when searching. . . . Doug Schneider